Big trends for a big decade, as predicted by the Tech Futures Lab Meetup

The start of this new decade presents technology predictions galore. To sift through industry’s new forecasts and hone our own tech foresight skills, during our inaugural Future of Work Meetup for 2020, we asked participants to examine past predictions for their relevance and accuracy today. Based on these insights, they then created their own hypothesis for 2030.

In groups, participants analysed one unique prediction for 2020 from a variety of sectors, authors, and publications. The predictions all explicitly labelled 2020 (e.g. “Things to know for 2020) or predicted the upcoming years up to 2020 (“Predictions for the next decade”). Groups discussed the accuracy of each prediction and whether it actually delivered the sweeping changes promised. Finally, groups reconsidered these predictions for the next decade and recrafted them for 2030, while considering the implications for New Zealand.

Below are the results from our session:

1. Original 2020 prediction: You will need to know how to talk to your house

Did it happen? No

New 2030 prediction: “Your house will learn to speak with you.”

A mix of narrow use cases and potentially invasive user experiences have stymied the smart home revolution. To appeal to late adopters and tech-resistant boomers smart technology must become more intuitive, less intrusive, and offer users benefits beyond verbal interfaces.

2. Original 2020 prediction: You'll identify yourself, gain access to homes and businesses, and board an aircraft after a laser has measured the shape of your irises

Did it happen? Sort of

New 2030 prediction: There will be an expansion of biometric technologies tied to a growing suspicion among consumers. Existing technologies such as fingerprinting and facial recognition will replace commonplace identity services such as email. Governments and businesses will invest in more inconspicuous data sensors to capture “aura data,” nearly intangible data points like body heat or breath perspiration. In response to a plethora of biometric-tracking devices, debates on privacy and the ethics of data tracking will become more prevalent.

3. Original 2020 prediction: You will always need to know if the facts you've dredged up are accurate and truthful.

Did it happen? Yes

New 2030 prediction: Disinformation spread through the internet has upended society’s consensus on its institutions for truth. For the next decade, audiences will continue to question facts and information until these consumers have the tools to recognize reputable sources and the means to participate in fact-checking. Trust will become one of the biggest business opportunities of the decade. We foresee the development of technologies and platforms that provide real-time fact-checking, live detection, and the emergence of businesses that offer trust and identity verification as a service.

4. Original 2020 prediction: We will consume more media than waking occurs

Did it happen? Mixed

New 2030 prediction: We have the power to define this. People will continue to consume extreme amounts of media and will ironically rely on technology to regulate their media usage.

We will begin to see the impacts of neurological differences in generations who have developed in an environment configured for rapid multitasking as opposed to sustained focus, like smaller attention spans. Businesses and schools will need to evolve their approach to working hours and learning to optimize for brains developed for multitasking and instantaneous results.

5. Original 2020 prediction: The future is decentralised

Did it happen? No

New 2030 prediction: Individual decision-making will be more decentralised with personalised technology and information. However, ownership of information will still be largely more centralised.

6.Original 2020 prediction: We will transcend our human abilities

Did it happen? Mixed

New 2030 prediction: The technology to augment human abilities will continue to develop and mature. And many devices that assist disabled individuals will become mainstream.

7. Original 2020 prediction: In the design economy of the future, people will download and print their own products, including auto parts, jewellery [...]

Did it happen? Mixed

New 2030 prediction: Although 3D printing technology has matured and has wide-ranging applications, from human tissue to building parts, we aren’t quite printing our own products, auto parts or jewellery. In the next decade, we could see self-sustaining ecosystems that begin to 3D print parts (or organs) on demand. The business models that harness 3D printing to connect market need to innovative technologies will mature this decade.

8. Original 2020 prediction: By the end of the decade close to half the workforce will be working independently, often across national boundaries

Did it happen? Mixed

New 2030 prediction: There are really two facets to this prediction -- one is a remote workforce where we have the technologies, tools, culture and practices to work from anywhere i.e independently and across national borders. We are certainly seeing the rise of the capabilities around this, but not quite 50%. Another aspect to a remote workforce could be the gig economy -- a network of on-demand workers/creatives/specialists. We are seeing the pros and cons of this development. The benefits are a more democratised workforce but on the other hand, there are challenges around lower pay, no social nets and exploitation. Will this decade be the one when Universal Basic Income becomes a reality?

9. Original 2020 prediction: Remix culture will surge, with everybody taking and jamming up slices of everything and anything to express themselves

Did it happen? Yes

New 2030 prediction: Remix culture will decline as corporations and governments enforce stricter controls and legal punishment for the use of intellectual property. Additionally, more authoritarian governments will continue to limit personal expression by blocking access to sharing & open information platforms and censuring content.

10. Original 2020 prediction: Micronations built on artificial islands will dramatically shift the face of global politics.

Did it happen? No

New 2030 prediction: We will continue to see polarization in politics due largely to changes in demographics, core values. Climate change will force us to evaluate new horizons.

11. Original 2020 prediction: The way we use energy will change faster than ever before in human history.

Did it happen? Mixed

New 2030 prediction: This prediction didn’t transform into an insight but instead a larger debate surrounding whether society could change its use of energy fast enough to prevent a climate catastrophe.

12. Original 2020 prediction: We will have to face the fact that technology favours some and eclipses others

Did it happen? Yes

New 2030 prediction: The decade will bring about increased scrutiny on technology and corporations, and an emphasis on inclusion and diverse identities. These cultural forces alone won’t hinder technology’s bias towards those with systemic advantages, but they will inspire more socially inclusive and universally propitious innovations.

Our Meetup group is free and open for anyone to join. We meet every six weeks to swap ideas on a theme or topic central to the future of work. Join our group here.


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Tech Futures Lab is an education facility of The Mind Lab, a NZQA registered Tertiary Education Organisation under the provisions of the Education Act 1989. Candidates who are studying on a programme delivered by Tech Futures Lab are enrolled with The Mind Lab.

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